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Fourth-innings chases: The '80s saga

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Roar Guru
5th April, 2020

In most Test matches, the beginning of the fourth innings marks the start of the conclusion.

For teams batting last, a successful chase gives immense joy. For all the successes of the Invincibles of 1948, the 400-plus chase at Headingley in the fourth Test stands out in most people’s minds.

But things can go horribly wrong as well. And 33 years later, Kim Hughes’ Australians saw the other side of the coin.

Here, I have included ten memorable fourth-innings chases from the ’80s. There are successful ones, almost successful ones and complete disasters.

The successful ones

West Indies versus India – first Test, Kingston, 1983
Generally, the West Indies’ nine-wicket victory at Lord’s in 1984 thanks to Gordon Greenidge is considered the best fourth-innings chase of the decade. But for a few reasons, to me, this chase ranks higher.

When rain forced no play on the fourth day, a draw looked like a certainty. India were 3-81 in their second innings, a lead of 78. Rain was around the Sabina Park the next day as India looked safe at 5-136 with little time left from play.

Yet it was at this point Sir Andy Roberts changed the course of the match. It was against India a decade earlier that a speedster first made his mark on the international scene. And here in the twilight of his career, he ran through the Indian tail to take 5-39. Interestingly, this would be his last five-for in Test cricket.

The West Indies needed 172 in about two hours, and despite Roberts’ brilliance it looked like that it would finish in a draw. After all, the West Indies had batted for 116 overs in the first innings scoring just 254 runs.


Greenidge, who had struggled for runs in domestic cricket prior to this Test, had taken 249 balls to score just 70 runs. But everyone saw a different West Indies in the second innings. Desmond Haynes was the first man to go, but not before he had given the momentum with 34 from 21 balls.

Clive Lloyd’s decision to promote himself to the number three slot didn’t work. He was out for three, but the Viv Richards-Greenidge partnership destroyed the Indian bowling. Richards played a memorable innings of 61 from 36 balls including five fours and four sixes to lead the chase.

A good crowd joined the excitement as they heard of the exciting finish. At the end, the West Indies reached 6-173 from just 25.2 overs. Indian captain Kapil Dev bowled unchanged from one end taking 4-73, but runs came more freely from the other end.

Despite the heroics of the batsmen, Andy Roberts (4-61 and 5-39) was adjudged man of the match.

West Indies versus England – second Test, Lord’s, 1984
It was Eid holiday here in Dhaka during the match. I followed this match almost throughout via BBC TMS.

For a team thrashed in the first Test, England showed great fighting ability on the first four days, before capitulating badly on the final day.


Starting the day at 7-287, England declared at 9-300, with the Windies’ target set at 342. A mixture of brilliant batting, especially by Greenidge, and some poor England bowling saw the West Indies reach their target in just 66 overs losing just one wicket. And that wicket was a run out.

While it was a brilliant effort by the West Indies’ batting, the poor quality of England’s bowling came in for harsh criticism. In the England bowling, Neil Foster was very inexperienced, Bob Willis was no longer a Test-winning bowler, while Derek Pringle and Geoff Miller were never Test-winning bowlers.

So all the pressure was on Ian Botham. After taking 8-103 in the first innings and then scoring 81 with the bat in the second innings, Beefy had a bad final day. Bowling too short, he went for almost six runs per over from his 20 overs.

Interestingly, Botham and Greenidge shared the man-of-the-match award.

Australia versus New Zealand – second Test, SCG, 1985
This was a strange Test right from the first day. Already 1-0 ahead in series, the Kiwis were given a fine start by their reliable opening pair of John Wright and Bruce Edgar, who put on 79 for the opening stand. Then Bob Holland ran through the top order to restrict the Kiwis to 9-169, but the last-wicket pair took the score to 293.

In reply, Greg Ritchie scored a fine 89, but his dismissal saw Australia slump from 6-224 to 227 all out. The crazy nature of the proceedings continued as New Zealand raced to 0-100 only to be bowled out for 193 to set up a target of 260.

After all the dramas of the first four days, the final day saw a measured chase by Australia, winning the match by four wickets. It was basically the second-wicket stand of 105 between Wayne Phillips (63) and David Boon (81) that settled the issue in the home side’s favour. The Kiwi slow bowlers were accurate but failed to show the killer venom, and for once, Sir Richard Hadlee was handled with success.

David Boon poses after being inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

For Boon, the young Tasmanian, it was a career-changing innings. After a disappointing Ashes tour he had failed at Gabba. When he was trapped LBW by Hadlee for a duck here, his future with the Aussie team looked very grim. But this innings came as a big boost to his confidence.

And although they lost the series 2-1, this SCG success was a rare highlight for the Aussie team during a miserable season.

Bob Holland took ten wickets in the match, but John Bracewell was adjudged man of the match for his fine all-round show.

West Indies versus India – first Test, Delhi, 1987
Considering the huge popularity of the Windies team at the time, the Indian cricket authority selected the four major cities – Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras – as the venues for the four-match Test series. Sadly, the timing was poor. Coming immediately after a very successful World Cup, the crowds for the Test matches were poor.

The West Indies went into this match with their most inexperienced bowling attack for almost a decade. Pat Patterson, Winston Davis, Courtney Walsh and debutant Winston Benjamin had little Test experience between them.

But while they were raw, they were quick as well. And Patterson (5-24) and Davis (3-20) bowled India out for 75. The Windies did little better, scoring 127. A century by new Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar helped India score 302 and set up a target of 276. On an under-prepared pitch the hosts looked the favourite. There was plenty of time. A draw was out of the question.

It was the Indian seamers, Kapil and Chetan Sharma, who had done the damage in the first innings. For the final innings, the Indian fans were looking at the spinners Maninder Singh and debutant offie Arshad Ayub for the wickets. Sadly, Maninder – who had an outstanding 1986-87 season – wasn’t the same bowler anymore. Too much ODI cricket had made him a defensive-minded bowler. Ayub was never a big turner of the ball.


Still, Ayub enjoyed some early success, as the tourists were restricted to 4-111. But, the king Viv Richards was in splendid touch in the middle. And he gave his side the initiative with a 92-run stand with Gus Logie. Logie – a fine player of spin bowling – fell for 46, but there was no stopping Viv. At the end, his unbeaten 109 ensured a five-wicket win for the Windes.

Over the years I have seen many flamboyant innings from Viv, but this was measured. Still, his runs came from just 111 balls with 13 well struck boundaries.

New Zealand versus West Indies – first Test, Dunedin, 1980
Chasing 104 runs for victory, the home side reached their target with one wicket in hand. So it wasn’t a great chase, but a successful one and eventually a very significant one.

Of course, there were some unwanted scenes during the final stages, as the Windies felt very hard done by some of the umpiring decisions. They felt that they had the match wrapped well before the actual end.

Nevertheless, this one-wicket win was inspired by Hadlee’s 11 wickets ensured the series win for the hosts. It would take another 15 years for another team to win a Test series against the Windies.

Richard Hadlee

(Simon Bruty /Allsport)

The near ones

India versus Australia – first Test, Madras, 1986
Much controversy was raised over Allan Border’s declaration, setting a target of 348 from 87 overs on the final day. An asking run rate of four certainly looked safe in those days. But it was a very inexperienced bowling line-up against a strong batting line-up. Besides, batsmen had pretty much dominated the match on the first four days.


In the morning local hero Krish Srikkanth raced to 39 from 49 balls batting in his usual flamboyant style. But when Greg Matthews dismissed him, I thought India would give up their chase.

My college schedule meant that I missed the commentary after lunch, and at the end I was surprised by the eventual outcome of the match.

India planned their chase well, taking their time to reach 2-204 before launching the final assault. Aussie spinners Matthews and Ray Bright kept up picking wickets at the vital times.

At the end, Ravi Shashtri was left stranded on 48 not out while Matthews trapped Maninder LBW. Ravi came in for some harsh criticism for giving the strike to the number 11, but I think he did the right thing by saving the match first.

Dean Jones and Kapil Dev were jointly adjudged the men of the match.

West Indies versus Pakistan – second Test, Queen’s Park Oval, 1988
Bowlers dominated the first part of this match. After Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir restricted the home team to 174 all out, the home side’s pacers restricted the lead to just 20. Batting the second time, the home side looked to be in trouble at 4-81, but then centuries from Viv Richards and Jeff Dujon helped the Windies reach 391, setting a target of 372.

For most teams a fourth-innings target of 372 would have been an impossible task. But this Pakistan team was the only team in world cricket at the time capable of challenging the supremacy of the Windies. And they produced a bold chase, keeping the excitement intact all the way to the final over.

At 3-67 Pakistan looked to be in trouble. But Javed Miandad, their premier batsman, took control at this stage. There were useful contributions from others, and at one stage when Pakistan reached 5-282, a huge upset looked on the cards. But then Javed fell and Pakistan eventually finished on 9-341 – a brave effort.


Pakistan also came close in the third Test at Bridgetown, but eventually the home side won by two wickets to level the series.

Australia versus England – fourth Test, MCG, 1982
I don’t think anyone who saw the fifth day’s action in this match either in the stadium or on TV will ever forget the drama. After Jamaican-born Norman Cowans ran through the Aussie top order on the fourth day, Australia needed 37 more runs with the last pair at the wicket. In fact, the Queensland pair of Allan Border and Jeff Thomson had already defied the English bowling to add 37 to take the game to the final day.

Although Thomson wasn’t the worst number 11 in the world, it was expected that England would dismiss him fairly early on the fifth day. But Thomson, enjoying a fine series with the ball, showed excellent technique and temperament to support Border. Border was playing for his place in the side. He started the day 44 not out and when he completed his 50, it was his first for almost ten months.

But gradually, as the target came closer, both grew in confidence. The crowd grew in numbers and so did their noise level. Even singles were cheered by the Aussie fans.

Of course, at the end it became a tragedy. Chris Tavare very nearly became the most popular English cricketer in Australia, but Geoff Miller intervened.

Although they lost the Test, the return of form of Allan Border was the biggest boost to the Australian cause. He got runs in the next Test at SCG, scored a couple of hundreds against Pakistan the next season, and didn’t look back after that.

Allan Border batting

(Photo by Adrian Murrell/Getty Images)

The disasters


Australia versus India – third Test, MCG, 1981
The Aussie capitulation at Headingley in the northern summer should top the list of disastrous chases, but since so much had been written on it, I have decided to ignore it and instead discuss the dress rehearsal at the MCG earlier in the year.

On the opening day, India recovered from 6-115 to 237 all out thanks mainly to a brilliant 114 from Gundappa Viswanath. The most interesting part was that just as he reached his hundred, the Indian commentator quickly reminded everyone that India never lost a Test when he scored a hundred.

Still, for most part it seemed a lost cause for the Indians. Australia took a first-innings lead of 182 and although the Indian opening pair of Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan shared an opening stand of 165 in the second innings, the ultimate target for Australia was 143.

They didn’t even come close. With Kapil unable to bowl on the fourth evening, Karsan Ghavri and Sandip Patil opened the bowling for India, and Ghavri, the left-armer, dismissed John Dyson and Greg Chappell in quick succession as Australia finished the day at 3-24.

Next morning, Doshi bowled Hughes, and then Kapil Dev – not 100 per cent fit and bowling against the advice of the doctor – ran through the Aussie batting. Doug Walters, in his final Test innings, remained 18 not out as the Aussies were bowled out for 83.

Australia versus England – first Test, Headingley, 1989
Ted Dexter, the new chairman of England selectors, wanted his team to play exciting cricket in the series.

While his four-pronged pace attack performed poorly against the Aussie top order, the English batting at least looked quite entertaining in their first innings, scoring 430 runs with a run rate of 3.52. So when Border declared on the fifth morning after some attractive Aussie batting, many expected England to make a bold chase of the 400-plus target.

That never happened, after reaching 1-67, they collapsed against their old bogeyman Terry Alderman. This time, there was no Botham for the rescue, and the Aussies won the match by 210 runs. Alderman was man of the match for his ten wickets in the match.


This match started the Aussie dominance of the Ashes, which ended with the drama in 2005.